Weightless Markets

Unemployment up. Stock market down. Recession looming. For financial security, maybe you should enter the space plane business. EADS thinks the market will boom:

Aerospace giant EADS says it will need a production line of rocket planes to satisfy the space tourism market.

The European company’s Astrium division, makers of the Ariane rocket, has plans for a commercial vehicle to take ticketed passengers above 100km.

Its market assessment suggests there would be 15,000 people a year prepared to part with some 200,000 euros (£160,000) for the ride of a lifetime.

Astrium anticipates it be will be producing about 10 planes a year.

“To satisfy the market you will need more planes than you think, because once there is regular operation, the price will decrease which means there will be more customers,” Robert Laine, chief technical officer (CTO) of the pan-European company, told BBC News.

For more info on the EADS’ take on space tourism, watch Robert Laine, EADS’ CTO’s speech to the Institution of Engineering and Technology last week.

While Astrium proceeds according to plan, Virgin Galactic and its partner, Scaled Composites, appear to be in the space tourism race lead. And it looks like they are confirming Laine’s prediction for increased production:

Virgin Galactic, billionaire Richard Branson’s space travel venture, plans to order five more spaceships and aims to turn a profit in five years from its commercial launch in 2010, an official told Reuters on Thursday.

Prospective space travelers have so far placed deposits totaling more than $31 million for tickets that cost $200,000 each and would give them five minutes in space, said Alex Tai, the firm’s group director.

“In the short term, we have firm orders for five spaceships and options for seven … We believe there is a very strong market,” Tai said in an interview at the Singapore Airshow.

If you want the weightless experience but can’t pony-up 200k, drop 4k and hop on a 727 parabolic flight – G-Force One:

Zero Gravity Corporation (www.GoZeroG.com) is a privately held space entertainment and tourism company whose mission is to make the excitement and adventure of space accessible to the public. ZERO-G is based in Las Vegas and Florida and is the first and only FAA-approved provider of commercial weightless flight to the general public, as well as the entertainment and film industries, corporate and incentive market, non-profit research and education sectors, and government. The experience offered by ZERO-G is the only commercial opportunity on Earth for individuals to experience true “weightlessness” without going to space. This is the identical weightless flight experience used by NASA to train its astronauts and used by Ron Howard and Tom Hanks to film Apollo-13. The ZERO-G Experience consists of a brief training session for passengers followed by a 90-minute flight aboard G-Force-One, during which parabolic maneuvers are performed. The controlled ascent and descent of the plane allows Flyers to experience Martian gravity (1/3-gravity), Lunar gravity (1/6-gravity), and zero gravity. The ZERO-G Experience provides its Flyers with twice the amount of weightless time achieved in a typical sub-orbital flight into space. ZERO-G operates under the highest safety standards as set by the FAA (Part-121) with its partner Amerijet International of Ft. Lauderdale Florida. Aircraft operations take place under the same regulations set for large commercial passenger airliners.